Verizon, ATandT Offer Free Calls, Texts to Japan in Wake of Disaster

All four major carriers are enabling customers to send free texts to aid organizations. AT&T and Verizon are additionally offering free calling and texting to Japan.

Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan March 11, all four major U.S. wireless carriers are making gestures of support.

AT&T officials have announced a special offer for customers trying to reach family and friends in Japan. Effective March 11 through March 31, the company's wireless postpaid customers (those who receive a bill, instead of buying pre-paid minutes) won't be charged for calls from the United States or Puerto Rico to Japan, or for text messages to Japan from U.S. wireless numbers.

Additionally, AT&T wireline customers can receive 60 minutes of direct-dial calling time to Japan during the same time frame. While wireless customers are likely to see no charges on their bill or to see a credit applied to their statement, wireline customers will need to call AT&T to receive the credit."We want to help our customers connect with loved ones in Japan in anyway we can," Mark Collins, senior vice president of voice and data products with AT&T Mobility and Consumer Markets, said in a March 14 statement. "Connecting with family and friends is most important at times like this - we want to make it as easy and worry-free as possible for our customers."AT&T customers can also text "redcross" to 90999 to make a $10 donation to support the Red Cross' support efforts in Japan, and through March 17, can view TV Japan, the 24-hour Japanese news channel available to U-verse TV subscribers, free of charge.Through April 10, Verizon Wireless post-paid customers can also place calls and send text and multimedia messages to Japan free of charge.Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are also waiving text-messaging fees for customers donating to disaster-relief organizations.Sprint says customers will not be charged for:- Texting REDCROSS to "90999" to donate $10 on behalf of the American Red Cross;- Texting TSUNAMI to "50555" to donate $10 on behalf of Convoy of Hope;- Texting WAVE to "50555" to donate $10 on behalf of the World Relief Corp. of National Association of Evangelicals; and- Texting JAPAN or QUAKE to 80888 to donate $10 on behalf of The Salvation Army.The same goes for Verizon Wireless customers texting the above numbers, as well as to the following, to make a $10 donation:- ADRA Relief, by texting SUPPORT to 85944;- American Red Cross Relief, by texting REDCROSS to 90999;- GlobalGiving, by texting JAPAN to 50555;- International Medical Corps, by texting MED to 80888;- Mercy Corps, by texting MERCY to 25383;- Save the Children Federation, by texting JAPAN or TSUNAMI to 20222; and- World Vision, by texting 4JAPAN or 4TSUNAMI to 20222.T-Mobile also says it does not charge for text messages sent to mobile giving campaigns.The 8.9-magnitude earthquake, and the subsequent tsunami that ravaged a portion of northeast Japan, resulted in a death toll that continues to climb. Additionally, the country has been threatened with the possible meltdowns at several of its nuclear reactors, a situation that has shaken the interest of some in the United States in nuclear power as an alternative energy source. The widespread damage could also have an enormous impact on the semiconductor-manufacturing business, which Japan is a major contributor to. And still further depressing is the addition of evil intent to the tragedy. Since the quake's date, a number of links have been set up to redirect readers looking for information on the earthquake to malicious links for fake anti-virus software. Malware writers using black-hat search engine manipulation have pushed such links to the top of the results when "most recent earthquake in Japan" is searched for.On the TrendMicro company blog, Carolyn Guevarra posted: "Cybercriminals will most definitely ride on every earthquake or natural calamity news that will hit."